Diary of a Hair Transplant
Dean Evans – Celebs on Sunday’s art editor had worried about going bald for 20 years. Until he took the plunge and had a transplant. Here’s the story…
I’ve been kidding myself for years I’m OK with losing my hair. But when men tell you they don’t mind going bald, they’re lying. When I was young my hair was thick, and I had a fringe like something out of Human League. Sadly, its days were numbered. My hairline started receding when I was 28. Two years ago I noticed my crown area was thinning out too, and realised I was about five years off the full Bruce Willis. I bought some Regaine, a solution you spray on top of your head. It’s mean to slow the rate of balding and for some lucky men it even re-grows their hair, but that didn’t happen for me . This year at 45, I started thinking about hair transplants. I’d always assumed they didn’t work, or they gave you hair like Russ Abbott, but when I began researching it on the internet and read about the success stories, my views started to change. Last month, I took the plunge and booked in with Dr Richard Rogers, one of the UK’s leading hair transplant surgeons. Here’s my diary.
An informed chat with Dr Rogers about the procedure and how much its improved in recent years. ‘In the past men had their head ruined with punch grafts’, he tells me. ‘Surgeons would take 4mm pieces of scalp from the back of the head. Then put them in holes the same size at the front. This caused scarring if the grafts didn’t take and often left a bizarre tufty effect.
The operation Dr Rogers will perform is the far superior micro graft technique. ‘We make pinprick-sized holes in the scalp and implant hairs taken form the back of your head,’ he says. ‘To see any scarring you’d need a microscope.’ There’s a limit to how many hairs can be transplanted in one go, and Dr Rogers thinks I will need two sessions. First, he’ll treat my receding temples. My monk patch can be treated at a later stage. Dr Rogers explains it will take at least six months to start seeing the full effect of the first graft, but to give me and idea of what to expect, he shows me lots of before and after pictures of his clients.
The day of the operation draws and I wake up feeling a bit apprehensive. I’ve been under strict instructions to avoid alcohol before the op as it increases bleeding – a shame really, as I could do with a drink.
I arrive at Dr Rogers’ Harley Street clinic and am greeted by what seems like a whole army of friendly nurses. I’m not complaining you understand, but why so many?
I’m given a rather fetching surgical gown that makes me look like an extra from One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest, and my blood pressure is checked. I get a quick pre-op pop talk from Dr Rogers and I’m ready to go. Feeling surprisingly calm.
I settle into a reclining chair and am offered a DVD to watch while Dr Rogers gets busy with my scalp. Dr Rogers shaves a small strip of hair at the back of my head. This is going to be the donor site, as it’s the bit that never goes bald. Well, I hope so anyway. Dr Rogers injects anaesthetic all the way across the strip – it’s slightly uncomfortable, but no worse than having a tooth filling.
Now I understand why we need five nurses. Working at the microscope, they cut out the individual hair bulbs from my donor strip. Each one is put in saline and added to the tally so the doctor knows how many holes to make in my head. While the nurses are hard at work, the rest of us pop out for a quick lunch break. I happily tuck into a bacon sandwich.
There’s good news when we return: my donor strip has provided an impressive 1700 follicular unit hair grafts. In real terms I should end up with more than 3000 new hairs as a single follicle can have two or three hairs grow from it. The more the better!
Now for phase two. The top of my head is numbered with more anaesthetic and the real artistry begins. Dr Rogers is like a gardener, putting hundreds of tiny holes into my scalp then ‘sowing’ the new hairs. Each pinprick has to be positioned perfectly to avoid damaging any existing hairs on my scalp (yes, I do still have some).
As Dr Rogers makes the first set of holes, the nurses expertly pop in the donor hair follicles. My blood and fat act like glue to hold them in place. The scabs start forming very quickly, which is a good sign. It’s a very slow process but obviously I don’t want then to rush. The nurses do a fantastic job of keeping me at ease with a chat. Once the first set of holes are filled, Dr Rogers creates some more and the planting continues. It’s all very slick.
My bum gets numb so I have a break and a quick look in the mirror. There are thousands of tiny red holes in my head. My donor strip had provided so many follicles that Dr Rogers has even managed to get a few in my crown – an unexpected bonus.
Its finally over. I’ve brought a baseball cap to hide my head, and I’m shown how to put it on to avoid damaging the doctors handiwork. The next 48 hours are critical as my precious hairs can fall out if knocked. Apparently a patient in America was hit by a car when leaving the surgery and the doctor had to put back the hairs that fell out! The anaesthetic is starting to wear off now, but a couple of painkillers deal with the dull ache. I make it home with all my hair bulbs in one piece. My wife said that she was expecting worse, but preferred it when I had the hat on.
Last nights sleep was a worry as there’s a risk the hairs can fall out. This morning my pillow had a couple of spots of blood from the wound at the donor site but all my hairs seem intact. Painkillers keep the slight ache under control and the front of my head is bone dry, no bleeding or oozing – incredible after having 1700 holes put in my head.
5 days on
Its all healing well – my scar has been sewn up so neatly its barely visible under my hair. Now all I have to do is wait for my new hair to start growing. In six months, I’ll have another donor strip taken from the back of my head and more hairs implanted into my crow. I’m also going to start taking a drug called Propecia, which Dr Rogers says is good for keeping the hair I already have. Before you know it, I’ll have a barnet like Elvis.
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